Qualitative Analysis of Collaborative Learning Groups in Large Enrollment Introductory Astronomy
Large-lecture introductory astronomy courses for undergraduate, non-science majors present numerous problems for faculty. As part of a systematic effort to improve the course learning environment, a series of small-group, collaborative learning activities were implemented in an otherwise conventional lecture astronomy survey course. These activities were used once each week during the regularly scheduled lecture period. After eight weeks, ten focus group interviews were conducted to qualitatively assess the impact and dynamics of these small group learning activities. Overall, the data strongly suggest that students enjoy participating in the in-class learning activities in learning teams of three to four students. These students firmly believe that they are learning more than they would from lectures alone. Inductive analysis of the transcripts revealed five major themes prevalent among the students' perspectives: (1) self-formed, cooperative group composition and formation should be more regulated by the instructor; (2) team members' assigned rolls should be less formally structured by the instructors; (3) cooperative groups helped in learning the course content; (4) time constraints on lectures and activities need to be more carefully aligned; and (5) gender issues can exist within the groups. These themes serve as a guide for instructors who are developing instructional interventions for large lecture courses.
Skala, C., Slater, T. F., & Adams, J. P. (2000). Qualitative Analysis of Collaborative Learning Groups in Large Enrollment Introductory Astronomy. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 17, 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1071/AS00185